Theses Doctoral

Teacher Stress, Teacher Warmth, and Children’s Ability to Regulate Emotion in the Preschool Classroom Context: a Mixed-methods Approach

Wiltshire, Cynthia Arraya

An understanding of emotion regulation (ER) is important to children’s development, allowing for better navigation of the world. This learning happens in the company of caregivers, within the context of relationships inside and outside the home. Detrimental circumstances (e.g., poverty, lack of quality early childcare options, homelessness), however, exist for children in the United States. These factors have the potential to affect children’s academic readiness and success, resulting in them entering Kindergarten labeled at risk for school failure. To manage these factors and the at-risk characterization children receive, one solution has been to send children considered at risk to more school and school earlier (i.e., Universal Pre-Kindergarten, 3-K). Once in school, children spend more waking hours with teachers than with family. Given the importance of the dyadic relationship between teacher and child, much like the parent-child relationship, this researcher sought to understand if at-risk children are, in fact, favorably served by earlier school when teachers themselves operate under equal, but differing, types of stress.

Using an explanatory sequential mixed-methods design, the researcher reanalyzed Chicago School Readiness Project (CSRP) data, looking for associations among teacher stress, teacher warmth, and children’s ability to regulate emotion; the researcher also qualitatively investigated Head Start (HS) teachers in the Chicago metropolitan area, asking (a) Do teachers exhibiting more warmth help children develop better emotion regulation (ER) skills? and (b) What are teachers’ lived experiences, histories, stories, and perspectives regarding child ER in relation to their own stress and warmth? Reanalysis of the CSRP data demonstrated teacher stress and teacher warmth were each associated with increased child externalizing and internalizing behaviors. Individual and focus group interview data of present-day HS teachers illuminated the problematic circles of influence in which HS teachers work, enriching the quantitative data. When children’s first years in school are considered a sensitive period, researchers, policymakers, and educators would do well to learn more about teachers who work around the realities and consequences of stress, as well as what their insights may offer to close the described achievement gap. Implications and recommendations are discussed.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Curriculum and Teaching
Thesis Advisors
Noble, Kimberly G.
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
June 14, 2021